The country’s decision to surround a large part of Gwadar city with barbed wire in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has sparked a fierce controversy in the country. It is said that this siege in this port city is being done to protect China’s belt and road project from rebels. But a coalition of 11 opposition parties – Pakistan Democratic Movement – has demanded an immediate halt to the siege. He has said that the siege will stop businesses and free movement of people in the city. Opposition Senator Kabir Mohammad Shahi alleged in a press conference that the siege would divide the city of Gwadar into two.
A group of lawyers have announced a challenge to the siege verdict in the Balochistan High Court. Baliristan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Munir Kakar has said that the siege is an attempt to separate the Gwadar Port from the city and take it directly under the control of the Central Government. Observers have noted that China’s investment in the coastal areas of Balochistan and its business interests have expanded considerably in recent years. It is therefore likely that the coastal areas of this province are separated from the rest of the province and their administration is directly taken over by the federal government.
According to Pakistani media reports, the government plans to lay siege to the 24 square kilometer area. China is investing $ 50 billion in Pakistan under its Belt and Road project. The central site of this construction plan is Gwadar. According to reports, the siege will be carried out to the depths of the sea. China will do this work and later it will be responsible for it. But Gwadar International Airport and 80 new residential projects being built by Chinese investment will be out of the circle. According to local media reports, there will be two gates for entering the city under siege. Over 500 high definition cameras will be installed above the enclosure.
The siege is part of the Gwadar Safe City project, according to the Japan-based website Nikkai Asia linked to the Financial Times, for which five crore was allocated in the 2020-21 federal budget. China is giving this money. The siege was decided due to growing concerns over the security of Chinese interests in Gwadar. In May 2019, the Baloch separatists attacked the Pearl Continental Hotel, located about a kilometer from the port. After that it was decided to make Gwadar a city free from weapons. The siege is part of the same plan.
Mohan Malik, a visiting fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washiganton, told Nikkai Asia that the siege in Gwadar shows that China will take every step necessary to protect its economic and security interests in Balochistan. It is possible that in future, a strict monitoring system should be implemented inside and outside the enclosure in Gwadar. Malik Siraj Akbar, a Washington-based expert on South Asian affairs, has said that China appears to have pressured Pakistan to take this security step. Akbar said that China’s patience is breaking due to the law and order situation in Pakistan. Pakistan is not in the mood to wait any longer for this to be resolved.
But Balochistan’s Chief Minister Jam Kamal has denied that a siege is being carried out in Gwadar city. But he said that some steps have been taken for extra security. On the other hand, Chairman of Gwadar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Naveed Kalmati has said that the siege will instill confidence in Gwadar based investors. Making the city arms free is a necessary step.
But many Balochistan experts have said that security cannot be ensured by such a siege. He has said that a better way would be to remove the discontent of the local population and take them into confidence. But these experts say that the government of Pakistan is so buried under China’s favor that it is not in a position to stand up to it. So, she is directly taking the steps that China is telling them.